FARMERS searching for drought feed for hungry livestock are urged to beware of the potential problems that could be caused by unusual feed stuffs.
With traditional feed supplies of hay and grain running low, Central Tablelands senior lands services officer Brett Littler¬†has been inundated with inquiries about unusual sources of stock feed.
He said¬†there was a potential for very serious consequences when it comes to some of the feed stuffs being peddled, particularly through social media outlets.
‚ÄúFunny feeds like onions, potatoes and watermelons have all been advertised as alternative feed sources, but these options can be deadly for sheep and cattle,‚ÄĚ Mr Littler said.
Onions are toxic to cattle when fed in larger quantities than 1.5 kilograms a¬†head, while potatoes and turnips are a choking risk for livestock.
With other fruits and vegetables, very low dry matter content can make these crops unsuitable as livestock feed, as livestock are unable to consume large enough quantities to supply their energy needs.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve recently seen watermelons offered on Facebook possibly by people with good intentions trying to help farmers out, but they need to understand that the water content is so high that cattle fed only watermelon as a ration would starve to death,‚ÄĚ Mr Littler said.
The water content is so high that cattle fed only watermelon as a ration would starve to death.
Central Tablelands senior lands services officer Brett Littler
Fruit and vegetables with low dry matter content can also be deceptively expensive.
‚ÄúI had a call about cabbages being sold at $570 a tonne delivered, but the dry matter cost worked out to be over $5000 a tonne, not to mention the other issues,‚ÄĚ Mr Littler said.
Other issues include the risk of moulds, and also unregistered chemical residues from crops grown for human consumption.
Although chemicals used on vegetables may be safe for humans, if they are not registered for use with livestock there is no¬†allowable maximum residue level in meat, creating a residue hazard which could threaten export markets.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve lost count of the number of strange feeds I‚Äôve been asked about recently, everything from liquorice, cakes and biscuits to carrots and oranges,‚ÄĚ Mr Littler said.
High sugar content in confectionery products can create a laxative effect in animals, and pose a risk for glycosis disease, while carrots can cause animal fat to turn yellow and become runny after slaughter. In severe cases, if the fat fails to set, the carcass will be condemned.
Carrots can cause animal fat to turn yellow and become runny after slaughter. In severe cases, if the fat fails to set, the carcass will be condemned.
Mr Littler has urged¬†farmers to¬†talk to someone who understands nutritional requirements of stock before feeding¬†unusual products to livestock.
‚ÄúGiven the potential problems related to these funny feeds, and the low levels of dry matter, in most cases it‚Äôs likely cheaper and safer to buy¬†grain¬†which is still widely available,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúEven top quality hay is selling for less than $500 a tonne of dry matter, while grain is worth under $500 a tonne, and it‚Äôs the dry matter content that counts.‚ÄĚ
For further advice on livestock feed contact your Central Tablelands Local Land Services vet or livestock officer in Bathurst, Cowra, Lithgow, Molong, Mudgee or Orange.